At the start of every New Year, we Christians and believers of other faiths turn our minds and hearts to God for different but obvious reasons.
First of all, we present ourselves to God in thanksgiving for our lives because we believe that God is the source of our lives and he is the one who sustained and protected us in the past year. We also remember and pray to God for his blessings and favors in the New Year and we hope for better results and progress in life than previous years. Our thoughts are equally directed to God at the beginning of a New Year because we believe we depend on God to bring our plans and expectations to fulfilment in accordance with his will.
Another reason we turn our attention to God is because God is the creator of the world of creation, as well as, the times and seasons of the year. In Gen. 1:14, we are told God said, “let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for times and seasons and for days and years.”
A New Year is, therefore, God’s own creation that he designed and offered us as a favorable time of grace, growth, change, renewal, hard work, and commitment in life. As we begin the New Year of 2019, we should thank God for his goodness, protection, assistance, and blessings in the past year. We should also commend this New Year into God’s care that he will continue to enlighten and guide us in his ways and use us to accomplish his plans and purposes for our society, the Church, and the world at large.
Each and every one of us in our various vocations and positions in life is called to make a positive contribution in our religious, social, economic, and political activities for the good of the human race. For our reward with God in this life and in the life to come depends on how we cooperated with God and disposed our gifts, talents, and resources at the service of our brothers and sisters in need.
What truly matters in God’s sight is not the number of years or one’s lifespan, and prominence in the society. Rather, what counts is the spiritual, moral, and human qualities of one’s life in relation to others. We are reminded in Ps. 100:4 that “in God’s sight a thousand years are like yesterday come and gone no more than a watch in the night.”
This conviction about God was emphasized in 2Pet. 3:8 that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. We are, therefore, required at the start of a New Year to examine ourselves, improve the quality of our lives, and live up to God’s expectation, not our own aspirations and expectations.
Several major events will ultimately take place in the course of this New Year. Within the Catholic Church, there are two special celebrations during the year that require our participation, support, and prayers. The World Youth Day (WYD) will take place this year in Panama from 22nd to 27th January, 2019. This special event is organized every four years to enable the Holy Father, Pope Francis to affirm the faith of the youths from around the world and encourage them to respond to the demands of the Gospel in their lives. They also have the opportunity to encounter other youths from different parts of the world.
A delegation of the youths from the Diocese of Banjul will participate in this event and the theme for this year’s World Youth Day is, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to thy word.” (Lk. 1:38). These words should equally inspire and challenge every Christian to offer himself or herself during the New Year at the service of God’s will. We should, therefore, pray for the success of the World Youth Day and be ready to follow in the footsteps of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. The Pope has also declared October, 2019, as the Extraordinary Missionary Month and the theme for the month is, “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.” All who are baptized are invited to actively renew the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. This can be done through prayer, reflection, action, sacrifice, and offering of oneself to the Church’s mission.
The custom and practice of making New Year resolutions is quite useful and appropriate so long as one is committed to fulfil one’s resolutions in the family and society. Our personal resolutions, promises, and good intentions for 2019 should, therefore, be faithfully observed throughout the year. We should not allow ourselves, in that case, to repeat the serious mistakes of past years that generated disappointment, frustration, and uncertainty in our communities and nation. As the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, I pray that God will grant all Gambians at home and abroad a peaceful, successful, healthy, and progressive New Year. May God continue to preserve our country and the Church in The Gambia from the forces and agents of evil who are against peace, unity, cooperation, mutual respect, and co-existence. Let us in this New Year promote and work for the common good and interest of our Church and nation than our own personal motives and ambitions. I wish all Christians, Muslims, and believers of other faiths and their families and friends a peaceful, happy, and prosperous New Year. May God bless and protect all of you throughout this year of 2019.
Yours in Christ